Saturday, 20 April 2013
Tuesday, 09 April 2013
I wanted to write even before I could read. I am not talking about scribbling on walls with crayons - I wanted to write books. I remember sitting on the pew and folding a paper during church as a young child, thinking that I wanted to write a book once I was old enough to know how to form the words. When I was twelve, I started writing a plotless narrative I intended to become a novel.
So when I found a pamphlet in our mailbox a month and a half ago about a Writer's and Artist's conference, I thought perhaps that would be a jumping off point for reviving that love of writing. At the same time, I love being a mom and I wasn't sure it was a good time for gallivanting and indulging in personal interests. Nevertheless, I mentioned it to a friend and to my husband who both urged me to go. After a good deal of equivocation on my part as well as encouragement from multiple directions, I finally committed to attending with my friend, leaving my little guys at home in the care of my willing husband.
That is how I found myself on a dented metal folding chair, enjoying surround-sound four part harmony, the beauty of it welling out of my eyes and down my face. I held the worn green hymnbook open in my hand, but I sang far less than I listened.
It's not at all unusual for me to cry when I sing. It happens often at home when the wonder whelms up within. I don't know if there has been a single Sunday in recent years that I haven't had tears in my eyes, if not on my cheeks as we sang in church. If there have been exceptions, it is likely because the activities of little boys prevented me from focusing. But my little boys were not there crawling on my lap or squirming beside me. So I worshiped, undistracted.
I may have been a distraction, though. The crowd I was in was not dressed like I was dressed. Dresses were the rule, and cape dresses were plentiful. The women's hair was not seen for it was tucked neatly up under a cap or a hanging veil. But my friend and I were wearing store bought skirts and blouses, which were unique in this crowd. Our hair was mostly visible, and though we had a symbol of covering on our heads it was not a covering in the same sense as the others covered.
But we were different in other ways too. We had not studied to be quiet, or if we had we certainly did not learn our lessons well. We were exuberant in our reactions to humor, although I have to admit that I moderated some of my enthusiasm because it stood out in this place. One aspect of my personality is that I enjoy and find energy in talking about writing, see humor in grammar jokes, and simply enjoy people. So I smiled, I grinned and giggled with joy at being there, but in moderation, maybe.
Through the years, I have grown somewhat accustomed to looking different. Early on, my parents saw me too easily conforming to peer influences, and so they took us out of the classroom and homeschooled, before it was as common as it is now. They apparently succeeded in breaking my tendency to conform, as later I willingly wore a headcovering in several settings where it was not commonly practiced, including college. I also lived in Japan as a foreigner for nearly three years. With practice, I have become more comfortable with standing out.
However, there is a difference between standing out and being an outsider. At this conference, I'm pretty sure I stood out in the crowd. I was different. But I was not an outsider. We all believed in God, and Jesus as Savior, and felt writing and the arts were important. Furthermore, I have a strong background in English and writing, I have personal and family experience with products from the company where this conference was held, and I was staying with family a few blocks away. If anything, I felt more like an insider than an outcast.
Despite all of that, adjusting to the setting was not seamless. There were times when the modest sobriety I observed felt more like somberness. When the quiet meekness felt more like a snub. There were very real cultural differences, and perceptions are key in cases of culture. Perception is based on observation, but observation is often accompanied by a value judgment as well. Differences feel threatening, and the natural response is to judge unfavorably rather than positively. We tend to like people and things that are similar to us and ours. While being different was not unusual for me, I still had to make a conscious choice not to judge the differences negatively.
I recognized that I was inclined to draw conclusions as I observed. Being self-aware was necessary for me because I was engaging people and experiences outside of my normal circles. It was important that I learn not to make snap value judgments because if I want to write for a wider audience than just me and my clones, I need to see those who are not like me in a positive light. I need to avoid assigning a negative motive for any action I would not choose for myself.
Writing, I have learned, is more than just getting words on paper. Good writing can reach through cultural differences to touch hearts and inspire friendships. This can happen only when I set aside my prejudice-muddied perceptions as I would set aside a smudged pair of spectacles. I must learn to listen to the things people say, and hear their heart behind the words. I must learn to see beyond the physical appearances to the joy and pain that shapes them. Not only must I set aside my smudged lenses, but I must find a clear lens to look through.
I have learned to be comfortable in settings where I am unique. But have I learned to empathize with those who are not like myself? I think I am learning the skill, though I have yet to master it. Perhaps as I practice, I will become more aware, more caring, and more seeing. That is what will be necessary to make what I write better. I can write, and revise, and edit, getting the words perfect, but words are empty if they lack heart.
It wasn't enough to learn to write words. I knew when I was twelve that there was something lacking in my writing, though at the time I imagined it was experience that I lacked. Now I know that is not the whole story. I needed to learn to be different, so that I could learn to write as though I were the same. I needed to be judged, so I could write objectively. Not only did I need to know words, I needed to know people. Beautiful, scarred, amazing, people are really what writing is about. It isn't paper and ink, it isn't the words. Writing is about the people.
Am I ready to write? I am still not certain. Even so, the desire is still there; 30 years later I still want to "make books". Perhaps it is time to try again, and see what happens. After all, there is nothing to lose, but a dream. And I can only lose that if I do not try.
Sunday, 07 April 2013
I went to a writing conference this weekend and wrote up the account in the previous blog entry, Tuesday, as a writing exercise. I am rewriting it for three different age groups in turn. This post is written with younger children in mind.
Reuel was done drawing and quite thirsty. Mommy went upstairs with the other boys for nap time a long time ago. He was tired of waiting for her, and he was big enough to get some water by himself.
Just as he had many other times, Reuel dragged a chair to the sink. He turned on the water. It ran out in a steady stream. Reuel thought, Water is so much more fun when it sprays! He pushed on the button on top of the faucet.
He pushed again, a little harder.
Still, nothing happened.
This time Reuel leaned on the button with all of his weight. He pushed down and leaned in.
Suddenly there was a crack, and a rush of water as the faucet head dropped into the sink. Reuel shrieked as the water sprayed in his face. He tumbled off the chair, backing away and yelling as the water poured over him.
Mommy ran in the kitchen, scurried to the sink, and shut the water off. Mommy picked up the pieces of the faucet, mopped the floor, and helped Reuel change his clothes.
When the mess was cleaned, Mommy had a talk with Reuel. "Son," she said.
"Yes, Mommy," Reuel replied.
"Do you know why the faucet broke?"
"It broke because I pushed on it." Reuel said.
"Yes son. You pushed very hard, and the faucet broke. Now we will have to buy another one."
Reuel remembered that sometimes Mommy said they could not buy things because they cost too much. "Mommy," he asked, "Do faucets cost too much money?"
Mommy looked very serious. "Well, Son," she said. "Faucets do cost a lot of money. It is important to take good care of the things we have. Do you understand?"
Reuel understood. "Mommy," he said, "I am sorry I broke it. I will not push hard on the new one when we get it."
Mommy hugged him. "I forgive you," she said. "Now, how about that cup of water you wanted?"
Saturday, 06 April 2013
It was Tuesday. I was leaving Thursday. It was Tuesday, we had spent the forenoon doing errands, and I had three days worth of tasks to cram into two days of time.
It was nap time, and I had seen baby off to sleep and even rested a bit myself. My middle son was soundly sleeping as well. My independent four-year-old son was in the kitchen, and I would be there soon enough. I had thirty minutes to work before it would be time to wake the boys, so I went to check my list in the back room.
I had not yet checked my list when a shriek emanated from the kitchen. There was a strange splattering sound as the shrieking continued. I burst through the door and dashed toward the kitchen, then froze as I saw a fountain where once the kitchen faucet had been. The gushing water was showering my fully clothed, sopping wet son and pooling on the floor. I scurried to the sink, yanked the handle to the off position, and breathed long and slow.
And then I laughed. I giggled as I fetched the mop and bucket, I chuckled as I wiped down the counter and stove, I chortled as I began to sop up the water. I laughed, because I chose not to cry.
I dried that floor. I marveled that the groceries, which were enclosed in shopping bags on the floor, were completely dry. I mopped, squeezed it out, and mopped again. I did not think of all the laundry, the resting places for those groceries, the clothes to be folded, a notebook to find, or the myriad of other tasks I should have been doing at that time, and did not even think of time until a glance at the clock told me that I'd missed the wake-up time and if I didn't hurry we were going to miss the leaving time altogether.
We got a new kitchen faucet that night.
So that was my Tuesday. God made it Tuesday, and Reuel made it exciting.
Saturday, 09 February 2013
I can't even figure out how to start this blog post. I juggle thoughts and ideas and disclaimers and none of them sound right. In a similar manner, none of the answers I've been given really sound right. They're too . . . something. Maybe just too sure, when I read what the Bible says none of it is just that clear.
The question of what the biblical role of women should be has recently been a topic heavy on my mind. I've read the "conservative" views and the "liberal" views, I have friends and read blogs of those who are or who support females in ministry and those who are firm believers and practicers of patriarchal models of gender roles. And those who would purport themselves to be the "moderate" view somewhere in between.
No one's answers really sit solid on the words I go back to reading in the Bible. But I really want to understand, because this is a big deal. I'm a woman. I'm a Bible-believing Christian. I want to serve God effectively and well. I want to use the gifts that I've been given in the way they were given to be used. I want it delineated clearly, but biblically. But I have yet to find such a treatise, one that jives with the Bible's words.
Maybe because the Bible itself doesn't give a single, coherent "this is what everyone needs to do" answer. It says women should be silent. They should not teach men. They should pray and prophecy. There is no male or female in Christ. They will be saved child-bearing. They can be more dedicated to God's work if single. . .
And we're supposed to find a "one size" answer there? Anyone who has claimed to have an understanding of what the Bible "means" ends up fudging on or translating what it "really" means in one or more of the texts. And it seems to me that a consistent hermeneutic is important to an honest understanding.
I could deconstruct the logic and reasoning I've read in several books and treatises and commentaries (and a discussion board, for that matter) in some detail, but that's not really what my goal is here. My goal is actually to share a bit of what I've learned.
I have learned that, no matter what view you take, it is generally agreed that women do have an important part in the kingdom of God. There may be disagreement on what roles are appropriate (or not) but there is no doubt that they are a part of the kingdom and have a crucial role in it.
I have learned that the issue can be divisive and painful. I am positive that this is contrary to what God intends and Jesus desires. If the issue is causing pain and discord, it is detracting from the plan that God has for his people.
I have concluded that the answer is not a one-size fits-all role. In fact, I strongly suspect that any attempts to impose such an answer (including that men and women are not different!) is to detract from the beautiful diversity that God himself created.
I think it is fairly clear that the biblical model does call for different roles for men and women. I would see this sort of like a model set up for running an organization. There is a model set up, as the plan, the ideal. Then you get the people in the positions, and they aren't all going to be cookie cutter people fitting neatly in the model. So they adjust to maximize the abilities of those involved and minimize the weaknesses. They recruit based on the actual people in the positions, not on the original model. This is an appropriate use of the model.
As a mom, I know that there are parts of my "job" as a mother that no one else even can do. There are also things I do well, and things I do not. My children will probably never have a themed birthday party where a dozen (or even a half dozen!) friends come and play well-planned games and take home cute favors. That's just not who I am. They will probably have an extensive vocabulary, though, because that is who I am.
There is nothing wrong with cute birthday parties (and maybe my kids will wish their mom DID that - and maybe I'll find someone who does have that gift to bless them with it!) My point is that it simply is a different way of filling the "mom" role.
I think that there are many ways to (appropriately) fill the woman role too. And those appropriate ways can fit within the broader biblical model of gender roles, when the men and women involved work together in unity of purpose and complementarity of roles.
There is one more thing I have concluded from what I've read and heard. And that is that everyone's understanding of gender roles is colored by the culture in which they live, although the model for gender roles transcends culture. The culture we are in does not necessarily conform to the biblical model, but neither did the culture in the bible always conform to it either. Our application of such roles is going to be affected by our cultural understanding, and I think that could be a source of some of the misunderstanding and disagreement.
Finally, I do know that God calls us to love him, and to show that love in obedience and service to him through loving and serving others. If I am doing that, in all sincerity, I feel confident that He can and will make clear if I overstep the role He has for me. Any broader understanding or application is, really, an extra. So I'm going to sign off and get back to the life he's given me of serving and loving, not just my husband and sons, but the church family and neighbors around me.
And there is no formula for that. Maybe a formula (or even a model!) isn't the point. He just wants my heart, not a role filled. And that's the whole truth.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
On this, the anniversary of the judicial decision that made abortion a woman's right, I have to limit how many videos, blogs, and memes I allow myself to see. I have little children who were once as small as these throw-away children who are now memorialized by numbers. My mother-emotions cannot fathom that anyone would go out of their way to harm such a one, much less hundreds of thousands and millions of them.
I tend to lack compassion for those who have had an abortion, in much the same way as I lack compassion for the shooters who enter movie theaters and public schools and open fire on dozens of people. I am not saying this as though it were a virtue, for it is not. At the same time, I do not believe that overlooking the great wrong being done is any more virtuous. Both show a lack of compassion for others that is marked and sinful.
I read in the Old Testament of people who sacrificed their children to a god, an idol. And I see the parallels, see how they sacrificed their children to appease this god, to seek favor for themselves. Why are abortions performed? These children are often sacrificed to the god of self and convenience, in efforts to have a lifestyle that is unchanged by the demands of a child. Often, in both of these scenarios, these mother's lives are not already wonderful, they are only hoping that sacrificing this child will mean it does not get worse.
I cannot celebrate, for I think it a travesty. I cannot mourn, except to repent of my self-righteous and prideful indignation.
May God have mercy on us. All of us.
Tuesday, 24 July 2012
I am grieving, tonight, for little ones I've never met. For little ones whose short lives touched so many others. And for mothers and fathers whose hearts will always have a place for their little ones even though the dinner table will not.
I grieve for parents who will never see this child's first steps, hear the first word, feel his arms in a choke-hold around their necks. For the "I love you, Mommy" and "I love you, Daddy" that they will not hear here on earth. The skinned knees and sobs and kisses and joys, the stories and prayers and swinging at the playground, all the toys on the floor and the food on the walls and the sweet please and thank you that never grow old . . . can never grow old now.
Two of my friends who were carrying their babies in their wombs at the same time I carried Eli have birthed their son and seen him die. One died the same day, the other six far-too-short-for-a-lifetime weeks. And I hold my not-so-little-any-longer baby and marvel at his growth and wish that time would stand still so I could capture the essence of the days even as tears for my friends drip down my cheeks. I know that for me, unless I purpose to remember, their birth days and death days will soon fade into the joyful monotony of daily life. But it won't for those mamas and daddies.
I don't want to forget. I want to remember, and in remembering, hug my little ones close a little longer. I want to remember, and be thankful for the things that seem so mundane. I want to remember, and in remembering be thankful for life. Life isn't really a given, just because it has been given to me and my sons. I want to remember, because I do know what they are missing, and I don't want to miss it too while I have the opportunity to be here for it.
But tonight, with my living babies sleeping, I grieve with my friends for the babies who are sleeping a different kind of sleep. I grieve for the hopes and dreams that are buried, not in the ground, but in human hearts. I grieve with words that are inadequate, as a photograph cannot capture the beauty of a sunset, and with tears that fall as drops in an ocean. My heart wants to argue with God, but I cannot dare. Instead, I will simply cry out the sorrow and grief and pain that is my small portion of their loss. And I pray they will be comforted, somehow, someway. It is more than I can do.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
I don't often remember to be thankful for my healthy children. After the last weekend, I'm not taking their bright-eyed high-energy curiosity driven action for granted. I'm sure, given enough time - a day or so - I'll be right back to taking it for granted that they are healthy, sound sleepers, energetic, hungry, thirsty little fellows.
And that their hearts, digestive systems, lungs, livers, and etc. work and function properly.
I am so blessed.
I don't often remember to be thankful for our income and job options. Besides Randy's full time job, I can tutor, Randy does yard work and milks cows on the side, as well as occasionally preaching. We have plenty to eat and enough to make house, electric, sewer, and tax payments. I often take it for granted and go right back to wishing we had enough for a few more things.
I'm not thankful enough for the many nice things we have and do, that so many never get.
I am so blessed.
I don't often remember to be thankful for the religious freedom I have. I hear so many fear-inducing treatises on the dangers of this, that, or the other bill or legislation, the moral depravity of our government and law enforcement, and the absolute collapse of the economy that is imminent that I take for granted the freedoms that I do have, which no one is trying to take away.
And no one can take away my freedom in Christ.
I am so blessed.
I don't often remember to be thankful for the husband I have. In the frustration and attention sponging details of the day, I often forget to even notice the myriad of ways that my husband blesses me. I take for granted the flirting, teasing, and even just the adult conversation - not to mention the support in parenting, the love and attention he gives the boys, and the times he takes over to give me a break from the "mothering" aspects of life.
I'm not thankful enough for the companion and leader who is my husband.
I am so blessed.
Even when the boys are sick, we're short on money to pay the bills, we see freedom being eroded away, and my husband is away and not providing the benefits I forget to be thankful for, I am blessed. I may not feel the warm fuzzies, the sense of overwhelming goodness surrounding me, or the feeling that all is well . . .but God still IS. He gives and takes away, the rain falls on my garden as well as the neighbor's, and some don't even get what they truly need.
He has a task for me to do, and whether all my blessings are the means, or a test, I don't know.
Regardless, I am blessed.
Saturday, 30 June 2012
There is plenty of advice out there on just about any topic. And as a relatively new wife (5 yrs. in August!) I want to work on my marriage. Friends, bloggers, and organizations offer blog posts, lists, and memes about the topic of "keeping your marriage on fire", "being attractive for hubby", or "how to bless your husband." And of course I, wanting to keep the fires alive and bless my husband and be attractive to him, read them. Not only that, but friends who are also married, especially those who have been married longer, often share what has worked for them.
All of this, combined with gardening, sick children, an infant, and all the normal life events, resulted in a good deal of discouragement for me recently. It culminated in admitting to my husband, in the dark anonymity of an electrical outage, that I feel like a failure because I simply don't do those things, the ones that appear on every list and in every discussion.
And bless his heart, my husband's shocked response was, "You are NOT a failure!" We then had a good discussion about what things ARE important - to him, the man I am actually married to. The things that make him feel loved, that keep the fires of our marriage alive. They were not the same things listed in the lists - though some things may have been variations of things found here or there. If I had managed to follow those suggestions, my husband would probably not have felt any more loved than he does now - and perhaps less so, because I would have been pressing our relationship into someone else's mold. Not to mention, I would likely not have had time to do the things that he told me he appreciates me doing - things that are not on any list I've found yet.
That got me thinking. How often do I do the same thing with God? I read, discuss, listen to what different people are saying about what God wants of us, what he says, how he is leading them. But do I really go to him and find out what HE wants? Do I spend time with him, finding out what his desires are for our relationship?
Sometimes advice and help from others is incredibly important, and can make all the difference in a life or marriage. But never at the expense of actually communicating with the other person.
So the only thing on my "marriage advice" list is this - if you want to improve your relationship with someone, talk to them. Don't waste time with secondary sources. Find out what they actually value in your relationship, how they want it to improve. And go from there.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
What if we have it all wrong? Who's to say that these men who are looked upon as "great Christians" of the past, the "forefathers of our faith" were just uninspired fellows who happened to be better salesmen of their thoughts, understanding and positions? Better talkers.
What if the folks who really "get it" are just average people in the pews, only their neighbors realize there is more to them than the average person? They aren't looked up to by lots of people nor do people travel to hear them. They just live out the simplest of commands where God put them, being faithful in the daily activities. Maybe God uses the marketing giants to his advantage, but "Well done, good and faithful servant" might just be reserved for those who actually served.
Novel thought. Maybe I should go and do rather than trying to figure it all out. I'm plagued by the sticky web of thoughts and possibilities when all that is required of me is to obey.